Video Games

Sorry, NRA, Gamers Won This Culture War, But it Doesn't Mean They All Love the Violence

Introspection, not regulation, leads to analysis of video game violence


If you thought this was a bad retelling of "Heart of Darkness" you don't want to know what they did to "Dante's Inferno."

Last week, before the National Rifle Association came roaring out of the gates to blame the First Amendment for one young man's violent rampage in Connecticut, I made note that the attempt to scapegoat video games fell kind of flat this time.

And then NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre tried to put video games back in the crosshairs, naming the usual suspects like Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat as well as some flash game they found online called Kindergarten Killer from the deep bowels of the Internet circa 2002. (For those who are new to the Internet, there is somewhere on the web a flash game that allows you to do any horrible thing you could ever possibly imagine, like killing your boss or herding sheep.)

While the coverage of Adam Lanza's rampage has led to the typical chin-stroking about our violent culture from those prone to such tiresome fretting on both the left and the right, it's pretty clear nothing will come of LaPierre's deflections. Unless the NRA is going to go on the record as opposing warfare (and the military component of their site suggests that's not going to be happening any time soon), they're hardly in the position to complain about what our culture values. Notice LaPierre did not name any war games or war movies in his spiel about how our violent culture is turning kids into killers?

In any event, the Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice Anton Scalia in 2011, ruled video games are protected by the First Amendment, so any political posturing on the matter isn't going to amount to anything. Gamers and the video game industry won this war. There is no evidence that violent video games lead to real world violence. Those who use statistical information to defend their pet causes should be aware of the statistical information that defends their potential scapegoats.

But lack of government action doesn't mean that, culturally, video game violence is not a concern within the industry. At the E3 video game trade conference last summer, game producer Warren Spector complained about the violence:

The ultraviolence has to stop. We have to stop loving it. I just don't believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it's in bad taste. Ultimately I think it will cause us trouble.

A reboot of Tomb Raider announced earlier this year provoked discussion in game media when early demonstrations made it seem as though protagonist Lara Croft could possibly be violently raped by crooks. It turned out not to be the case – though she could still be brutally murdered by them.

Games can and do sometimes tackle violence in serious ways. One game released this year, Spec Ops: The Line, generated huge buzz among gamers when what appeared to be a typical shooter set in a war zone turned out to be anything but. Instead, the storyline was designed to make the player question the morality of what he was doing by slowly but surely revealing that the protagonist had lost his mind and that his slaughter was not an act of heroism (I haven't played the game myself because I am awful at shooters, but here's a New York Times review).

There will always be gory video games, just as there will always be gory movies, but as the gaming medium continues to grow, the market will continue to provide alternatives to those who are not interested in violence. The solution to bad games is more games.

NEXT: Al Qaeda Threatens French Hostages Over Mali Intervention

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  1. So I got Borderlands 2 yesterday and started playing last night. My only comment on it so far is that it’s a bitch getting used to the decal graphics and close-up targeting is tougher than it should be. I’m tempted to turn off head bob to see if that helps.

    1. The comic book graphics are part of the fun.

      I’m a terrible (video-game) shot anyway (which is why I make heavy use of the turret). B2 is the only shooter I play, because its so damn entertaining otherwise.

      I’m at level 42 on my second (True Vault Hunter Mode) playthrough. TVHM is a great feature, IMO.

      I can’t say if B2 has made me more or less likely to shoot anyone. If I run into any Hyperion enforcers, Nomads, or other bandits, I expect we’ll find out.

      1. I’m only at level 8 right now, just got Claptrap to his boat. The soundtrack is pretty good and the voices are hilarious. I just need to get used to the targeting system, the only thing that seems right so far is the sniper rifle. I suppose I’ll get used to it eventually, it’s just a bit disorienting right now.

        1. What I have found in the first one… this is my 2nd start, I was at level 19 and then rebuilt my PC and decided to start over rather than from my first save game.

          Anyway, what I have found is that early on a combination of the fastest repeater you can get your hands on, and a good sniper rifle, is best. I try to snipe everything from a distance that I can, but then when the faster enemies(skags) start closing in, I switch to my repeater. The one I currently have will set enemies on fire, which helps a lot.

          Later on in the game, I also found a really powerful revolver that will take most enemies out with one shot, body parts flying, at close range, and combined that with my sniper rifle and incendiary repeater. I’m playing the hunter class.

          1. I’m playing as Maya on my first try and I’m going to go with the Cataclysm skills for more DoT damage. So far I’m doing better with the unarmed attacks when the Psychos close in. And trying to get the hang of dodging bullymongs when they launch at you.

      2. I think that we should legislate a limit for the exploding barrel launchers of bandit technicals…for the children.

    2. Did you play the first one? If so, how is it in compare?

      I think the graphics are cool on the first one, but it’s the sound track and gameplay that really immerses you in the game.

      1. I never played the first one. I only asked for the second one because I needed a new shooter and it looked like fun.

        1. The first one is really addictive.

      2. The two games are very comparable. The differences in gameplay and graphics are pretty minimal. They were smart, IOW: they didn’t fuck up a winning formula.

        I’m basically grinding levels and collecting loot at this point. Once I get to level 50, I’ll probably start over again so the whole game is at the top level. TVHM really ups the XP, so the levels are coming faster.

        1. Looks like I will probaby be getting the 2nd one eventually, then. Hopefully the price will come down a little after I finish with the first one.

          I read somewhere that the violence in the 2nd one was censored down(no flying body parts, etc.), in some countries. Not sure about the US. Would seem strange considering the amount of gore in Fallout series and other games.

          1. Heads explode pretty well when you pop them with the sniper rifle. Other than that I haven’t seen many flying body parts.

          2. There’s still a lot of gore but I don’t think I paid as much attention to it as I did in Fallout because you are usually fighting large groups and have to switch to another enemy as soon as one is downed. It’s a really good mix of enemies, keeps it challenging and interesting.

    3. I got it a few weeks ago and a few weeks before that Skyrim (new computer). Somehow the comic book graphics of B2 seem more realistic to me than Skyrim. I do a lot of sniping and haven’t found it bad at all. It depends on the rifle and your upgrades of course. I’ll admit I’m getting a little burned out on it and don’t play it a whole lot now, but I’m not a huge FPS player.

      1. I put about 130 hrs into Skyrim.

        Skyrim is a great game engine and all, but the characters are flat overall, and it got boring for me, so I didn’t bother with any of the DLCs. As far as that type of game goes, all of the Gothic series, Risen, and Two Worlds II are better.

        If you want an FPS that is a little more interesting and serious with more realistic graphics, try Fallout NV, it’s a great FPS/RPG.

        1. Yeah, I barely managed to run Fallout NV on the old pc a while back. That’s pretty much my ideal mix of shooting and storyline.

          I also had the same problem with Skyrim that I had with Morrowind, broke the game by getting too good at smithing and enchanting.

        2. I spent 136 hours in skyrim according to steam, and i thought Fallout NV was better too. I thought the world was better developed in skyrim. More to do, explore, waste time. But the storyline and characters for New Vegas were just so much better. I felt fairly accomplished when I beat New Vegas, for Skyrim, just kinda, meh.

    4. I got Far Cry 3 for Christmas, never played the first 2, but the box at least looks interesting. Anyone played it? I am debating whether to play it or take it back to Gamestop and get a used Halo 4, Madden 13 and Red Dead Redemption for the same price.

      1. Not crazy about Red Dead Redemption. I played it through, but for me the real test is whether I go back and play it again, and I had no interest in doing so.

      2. Far Cry 3 is a lot of fun. I really love the open world aspect. And the world is gorgeous.

  2. Wayne would be doing fine if he had argued that it was purely the fault of this crazy person that multiple murders took place. Instead, he had to DERP and feed his SoCon followers some Kultur War meat.

  3. It seems pretty unlikely that anyone over the age of 17 would be influenced by a video game to act violently…

  4. That’s right, the gamers won, nanny bitches, feeel it!

    1. Problem is, they still think it’s time for their pound of flesh.

  5. …ruled video games are protected by the First Amendment, so any political posturing on the matter isn’t going to amount to anything.

    I suppose you can give the NRA credit for choosing to toss a bus-proof sacrifice under the bus.

    1. That’s exactly what I thought he was doing. Or maybe he’s just ignorant about what’s going on in the country, outside of issues involving guns.

      Outside of a few fringe wack-os in Sacramento, no one is going to waste their time trying to ban video games.

  6. LaPierre is quite tha traitorish, fuckfaced dipshit.

    I’d like to see someone jam a rolled-up copy of the Constitution in his mouth a la Ripley and robot’s magazine in Alien.

  7. The problem is that what the Aspy did in Newtown is so horrible and so unprecedented, that it is pretty hard to blame it on a video game or much of anything other than one sick, worthless human being. If you want to blame video games on kids getting fat or being stupid, go ahead, although I doubt you will have that convincing of a case. But blaming them for a guy killing a bunch of grade school kids? No game could do that.

    1. I was a kid during the first wave of “video-games-are-linked-to-mass-shootings” hysteria. (At least, I think it was the first wave?) I loved to play Turok, Goldeneye 007, and other shooters. To be honest, the dishonest attacks on gaming culture just served to alienate kids like me. That can’t be good. I think you can probably make just as good a case for linking violent actions to alienated personalities as you can to video games.

      1. Goldeneye was a great game. And with the internet, how could ever hope to ban such games anyway? There is no way to keep kids from trading them and uploading them onto servers. Talk about pissing in the wind.

        1. When I got bored with the main story mode, I would sometimes spend time blasting bad guys away. But that was just to see how many kills I could tally-up when exited the level.

          But the main draw of the game was the espionage aspect. I loved sabotaging Russian equipment, retrieving secrets, and escaping unnoticed. That was the thrill for me.

          Even Grand Theft Auto has major aspects besides killing people. There’s managing your money, running businesses, and building relationships with other characters.

      2. I remember on day back when my son was maybe 10 or 12 and one of his friends came over to spend the night. Kids mom dropped him off and my son just happened to be playing a video game. I think it was a nintendo system, can’t recall for sure.

        Anyway, the beginning splash screen came up for the game, don’t remember the game, and it was a dragon.

        This strange silence fell over the room and that is when I noted that the mom was staring at the screen like she saw a ghost.

        Then she said, ‘My son can’t play dungeon and dragons games!’. Apparently, dungeons and dragons games(it wasn’t) send your children straight to hell. These people saw the debil hiding behind every game, toy, TV show, in the closet, wherever, just waiting to jump out and snatch the soulds of their children.

          1. Why do you think they’re called game con-souls.

        1. I thought they tried that nonsense 30 years ago.

      3. I was a kid during the first wave of “video-games-are-linked-to-mass-shootings” hysteria. (At least, I think it was the first wave?) I loved to play Turok, Goldeneye 007, and other shooters.

        Sorry, you young-assed whippersnapper, but you weren’t in the first generation. Back in the original FPS = mass murder hysteria of Columbine, the Kultur Warriors insisted that Doom was responsible for Eric Harris and Dylan Kleibold because of then unprecedented map-builder tools, which they used to create a layout of their school.

        Now get off my lawn!

        1. I have little doubt that there was an anti-videogame hysteria shortly after Pong was released.

  8. I’m sure when I kill my Sims with extreme prejudice (usually when the fuckers don’t learn their skills fast enough), it’s some indication that I wish to do that in real life. Because as an adult woman, I can’t possible see the difference between The Sims and the real world. I need Top. Men. to tell me.

    1. Kristen, you should have been here for the violent video game thread last week. I can’t remember who it was but something tells me you have no idea what “killing Sims with extreme prejudice” actually means among the HyR commentariat 😉

      1. I better go look that shit up…

      2. Kristen,

        Someone, I forget who, likes to wall them in and let them starve to death. It is like Warty is making a strategy guide or something.

        1. John, Warty is the inspiration for the Saw Series, the Hostel Series, the Collector Series, and A Serbian Film.

        2. Ahem, that would be me 🙂

          But I leave my predations to the virtual world, unlike Warty…

  9. We just need a database of everyone who owns violent video games, and which games that they own. Also a tax, no…. moar taxes… need moar revenue…

  10. So we’re still pretending that Wayne LaPierre was actually serious, and not just sending a shot across the bow of other industries and special interests?

  11. Aye aye aye, them folks are crazy dude.

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